Some women can pull anything off. It has little to do with the way a woman looks but how she perceives herself. Like the age old adage that confidence is the sexiest accessory. And yet, in order to feel confident, most women go to great lengths to change and conceal, cover and even cut off the problem areas that we believe KEEP us from our best selves. If wrinkles distract from a pretty eye, inject them! When hair turns a lighter shade of old, dye that shit! When breasts sag and tummies flab... QUICK! Call a doctor!
Several weeks ago, my mother came up and we chatted about "Going Gray" on Momversationn. The beautiful and talented Alice Bradley had recently decided to let her go gray and wanted to discuss the politics of gray hair, specifically the controversy that surrounds a woman's choice... to let her hair go. The smashing Daphne and her adorable mother joined the conversation which included many a wonderful points made specifically by Alice, re: why a woman's choice to go gray is such a highly controversial one, most of which were left out of the edited vid. (It's hard to narrow down 30+ minutes of conversation into a four minute video. Totally par for the course. Still, I wish the editors would have included some of the more provocative points.) Alice's stories of women questioning her decision to go gray and my mom's run-ins with friends of hers who told her "don't you dare!" when she announced that after coloring her hair for two decades, she had decided to let herself go... gray.
Women were oddly threatened by her decision to grow her hair out naturally. It was like pointing out to the universe that gray hair is what happens to women, to HUMANS, once we reach a certain age. Sometimes even before that. (My mother started to gray in her teens.) She was acquiescing to time in a way women seldom do. Embracing her age visibly, calling attention, in a way, to her peer group's mortality.
If my mom was letting her hair go gray, did that mean she judged other women for coloring theirs?
Of course not! And yet one woman's actions always manage to threaten another woman's choices. Or at the very least, create tension. Why? Because it's so much easier when everyone in the room is on the same page. Has the same style. Hair. Believes in the same God. Gets the same botox in the same problem areas.
I wonder, then, where do we draw the line (hee) between "natural" and "un.."? And why we care so mightily of our peer's choices? Does one woman's decision to get implants change the way we look at our own breasts? Why? Because it sets a bad example to our daughters? Because boobs aren't SUPPOSED to look like that? Because REAL is beautiful? Is that why we shave our armpits? Pluck our eyebrows? Straighten our hair? Is that why we squeeze into spanx, cover pimples with makeup? Fine lines with serums?
We're all doing it, right? Regardless of how drastic the measures.
In the video Alice asked if I'd ever let my hair go gray and I said, "yes. When I'm my mother's age..."
But I don't know if that's true. In the last two years I have found dozens of grays in my bangs - perhaps I'll stick with them for a while. Or perhaps, months from now, I'll dye the whites brown and never look back.
It's easy for me to say that I plan to age gracefully, naturally, but bodies change and so do minds. I can only tell myself, at this moment, what I think I want to hear.
Besides, natural isn't always better. It wasn't for me. And even though there's nothing fake about my breasts, there's nothing real about them either.
And therein lies my point. The grayness of it all. A healthy body image isn't about ignoring what makes us feel insecure. It's about UNDERSTANDING and even embracing why it is we cover up and suck in and tweeze and dye and insert and change. It's about cutting ourselves some slack when we look in the mirror and feel conflicted. Because one woman's desire to change herself is another's self-empowerment through acceptance. We're all different beasts wandering the same pressure cooker - searching for security in a world that makes it difficult to find it.
Regardless of the steps it may take to get there, we should all be so lucky to find ourselves someday confident in our ability to "let go".... Because, really, "I let myself go" is just another way of saying, "I set myself free."